6 December 2016

Isaiah 7:1-9

“Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint” (v. 4)

Psalm: Psalm 68:1-20


We find ourselves in the world of political intrigue and alliance. Ephraim and Aram had formed a military coalition to stand against Assyrian expansion and were determined to ensure that Judah ("the house of David" (v. 2)) became part of this anti-Assyrian united front of Palestinian states. But Judah declined. Judah was attacked (2 Chronicles 28:5-8) but Jerusalem did not fall. A second attack came (2 Chronicles 28:17-18) this time with the express intention of destroying the "house of David". In the snapshot that we have in this passage we are waiting the attack and, it seems that Jerusalem holds its breath. Ahaz and his people were fearful of what might come, shaking "as the trees of the forest shake before the wind' (v. 2). But the moment of truth comes not in the attack of their enemies, but in their response to the crisis. Would King Ahaz succumb to the pressure and ally with the others or would he remain faithful to the promises of the Lord? Would he seek salvation by works (political expediency and power) or by faith (trusting the Lord to protect them)?

Isaiah was sent by the Lord to speak with Ahaz as the moment of decision drew close. He took with him his son Shear-jashub. The child encapsulates a promise in his name for it means 'a remnant shall return' (the 'house' will not be lost); but the name also recognises the perilous position of Jerusalem, for it could also be translated 'only a remnant will return'. The Lord's advice to Ahaz through Isaiah is "Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint" (v. 4). Alex Motyer (in his book The Prophecy of Isaiah) suggests, "Be careful to do nothing…".

When the crisis moments come, sometimes the best response is to hold fast, to avoid the hasty response enticed by the promise of a simple outcome; to wait on the promises of the Lord, to wait in quiet confidence for "if you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all" (v. 9).

To Ponder

  • Can you recall a time in your personal journey when it was hard to "stand firm in faith" when inside you were shaking like a leaf? (I wonder if verse 2 is the origin of that saying?) What happened?
  • Are you the kind of person who would understand 'Shear-jashub' as a promise of hope ('a remnant shall return') or as a premonition of doom ('onlya remnant shall return')?
  • Where do you see unholy alliances being formed in today's world and what outcomes do you anticipate or fear? Take the opportunity to offer your fears to God in prayer.

Bible notes author

The Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson

The Revd Mark Dunn-Wilson is currently the superintendent minister of the Truro Circuit in central Cornwall where he has served for ten years and still going strong. Prior to Cornwall, Mark was a presbyter in the Liverpool District for 14 years.